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From dishwasher to banker to law enforcement

His goal: building positive relationships with students

Sparta — Sparta Schools’ new Resource Officer, Antonio Costa, who joined the district staff this school year, believes he has finally landed in the career for which he was intended.  

He first came to the United States as an exchange student from his native country of Brazil, and he remains close to his host family in Zeeland. Like many young people, his first job was as a dishwasher, but after college he began a career in business banking.

He quickly realized that dealing with business every single day was not for him, and he especially disliked that many of his job duties involved selling banking services and products.

He soon began researching the possibility of a new career in law enforcement.  “I went to the Ottawa County Citizen Police Academy, which gave me a taste of what it was like,” Costa said.

The academy provided an overview of what law enforcement officers do, including rides with full-time officers as well as filling in as extras at community events, he said.

‘What I want students and parents to know is that my position is not simply a police officer. … I have time to help resolve issues.’

— School Resource Officer Antonio Costa

Costa really liked the work and decided to leave the financial world in 2012 and train for full-time work in law enforcement. 

“At that time, no one in Michigan was hiring, so I headed to Colorado and joined my host brother just outside Denver,” he said.

While he still enjoys the mountains and especially skiing, after starting a family he returned to West Michigan to be closer to both his host family and his in-laws, who reside in the Upper Peninsula.

He joined the Kent County Sheriff’s Office in January 2020. He said he “just fell in love with community policing and feel like the position of School Resource Officer fits me really well.” 

Sparta’s new School Resource Officer is Antonio Costa

Not Just an Officer 

Costa’s highest hope is to build positive experiences with and for the students.

“What I want students and parents to know is that my position is not simply a police officer,” said Costa. “If they have questions about law enforcement in general, not just criminal matters, or are seeking different pathways to counseling, social work or whatever, I have time to help resolve issues.” 

Ongoing issues facing school districts and their students include vaping, suicide risks, and social media challenges, he said.

Costa noted that while there were only a couple of incidents in Sparta in the recent TikTok challenge to steal fixtures from school bathrooms, there always seems to be some who get caught up in the challenges.   

“No matter what the trend is, it is hard to put our fingers on it until someone copies it and then it is here,” he said. 

One of his goals is a presentation for young students about the many dangers presented online. “Every risk is real; even if you are quick to post and remove, it is still there forever,” he said.

Another goal for Costa is to organize a taekwondo class for students. “I love teaching it and believe a class could easily fit into our extracurriculars.”

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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